Gov. Jay Inslee has announced rules for Phase 2 of a multistep process to restart construction activity in Washington. Phase 2 allows work to begin on new projects, but only in counties that have moved to Phase 2 of the state’s overall reopening plan. Clark County is still in Phase 1, which only allows for the resumption of work on existing projects.
The Phase 2 rules, announced Friday, also will allow for the resumption of construction activities for which social distancing may not be possible, such as two or more people moving an appliance into a building. It also eliminates a Phase 1 restriction that requires job sites to only allow one subcontractor or trade on site at a time.
Phase 2 retains most of the health and safety requirements that were implemented in Phase 1, such as widespread social distancing, personal protective equipment usage and a COVID-19 supervisor at every job site.
For tasks where social distancing is impossible, other prevention measures such as barriers and staggered work shifts are required, and Phase 2 adds a requirement that a job hazard analysis be done for all work that requires people to be closer than 6 feet.
Washington’s statewide stay-at-home order halted construction in late March. Inslee announced Phase 1 on April 24, which allowed low-risk work to resume on projects that were already underway when the shutdown began. New projects had to remain on standby.
The construction reopening plan is distinct from the overall “Safe Start” plan to reopen the state, which covers all business sectors and divides the reopening into four phases. Safe Start was announced May 4, more than a week after limited construction had already resumed.
The two plans appear to have become linked; Inslee’s Friday announcement stated that Phase 2 construction may begin immediately, but only in counties that have received permission to move on to Safe Start Phase 2. Nine counties have moved to Phase 2 ahead of the rest of the state, but Clark County is still in Phase 1.
Inslee has stated that the earliest possible date for the state to move to Phase 2 is June 1, but on Tuesday he announced that 10 additional counties, including Clark County, could apply for an early jump to Phase 2 if they met certain criteria.
A spokesperson for the Building Industry Association of Clark County said the agency has begun to preemptively educate its members about the Phase 2 requirements even though the county doesn’t yet have a specific Phase 2 date.
It’s unclear what construction Phase 3 will entail, or when it might be implemented. A chart on the governor’s Medium page lists “additional construction phases” under Safe Start Phase 2, but it also lists “resume unrestricted staffing of worksites” under Safe Start Phase 4.